Andrea Marzi. The analyst’s identity and the digital world: a new frontier in psychoanalysis



The analyst’s identity and the digital world: a new frontier in psychoanalysis




It is undeniable that the digital world poses problems and ever more cogent questions, not only for the scientific disciplines and the humanities in general, but also for psychoanalysis and the ethical dimension. If we take for granted a long-standing interest in the psychopathological characteristics of internet addiction and an exploration of possible theoretical and therapeutic approaches to it, what is less often assumed is the fact that, via cyberspace, we are entering the virtual world and using it as a possible perspective for thinking about psychoanalysis itself and the mind’s virtual spaces, their possible existence and their possible meaning, the internal role of the setting, the comparison of virtual space with dream-space and with fundamental concepts in the making of psychoanalytic theory, the consequences of all this in the psychoanalytic relationship and the psychoanalytic field, and the possible distinctive characteristics of the analytic encounter in this field.

For at least two decades, our discipline has been taking an interest in the world of information technology from various vertices: individually, at conferences, and even at the level of the IPA(1), with opposing and intense emotional and affective responses.

This gives us the opportunity to study the world of information technology in depth to see if, among its many aspects and with its distinctive characteristics, it may have some influence on our capacity for symbolisation and on the construction of identity, and hence of the analytic identity.




Given the vast scale of this subject and the many points of view adopted towards it over a considerable arc of time, we can make no claims to exhaustiveness. There are various possible ways to reflect on this, but we shall start by immediately leaving in the background themare magnumof the subject of Identity as a whole, with its history, the variety of ways in which it has been conceived, and so on. However, I would like to consider at least the conception of identity as a personal condition, which expresses the sense of its own continuity over time, distinct from all other conditions,made of invariant elements but also of elements open to change. It is frankly impossible to exhaust the subject of the psychoanalyst’s identity completely, once and for all, because this is a mobile and changing terrain which also depends on its historical context.

To put it in context, the problem of the psychoanalyst’s identity has to be linked first of all with the current Zeitgeist, especially as it is embodied in post-modernism and its effects on culture, on society, and inevitably on psychoanalysis.

The interweaving of identity and the specific nature of analysis in relation to the contrast (and/or conflict) between psychic reality and external reality seems equally central, and closely connected to what I have just said.

Hence reflection can be extended to include the relationships which, in such a socio-cultural humus, flow back and forth between the psychoanalytic role and the external institutional role. In this context we meet the difficulty of maintaining the psychoanalyst’s identity when faced with the variables and demands of social reality: for example, the changes produced by patients’ requests and demands and the complex problem of the number of sessions. Connected to this there remains the problem of  conflicts deriving from the immanent ambivalence towards the analytic object, which nowadays sometimes seems to result in a disquieting cupio dissolvi.(2)

It is of course true, as Massimo Vigna Taglianti (2015) suggests, that it is one thing to speak of the analyst’s identity as that totality of characteristics which makes up the personality of an individual psychoanalyst which, bound up with his clinical experience, his theoretical models, and his personal ethical convictions, will all contribute to forming the subjective and constitutional components of that individual analyst’s Self; these last aspects reminding us more or less implicitly of the fact that some common basic characteristics can be identified in the personality, or in the deep unconscious urges which belong to all psychoanalysts.

It is another thing, however, to define psychoanalytic identity as that common and invariant element which enables the individual psychoanalyst to feel and believe himself to be one when he compares himself with other psychoanalysts (who are, after all, a highly heterogeneous group) and to be acknowledged by the other psychoanalysts as belonging to that specific «tribe» or «people».

Furthermore, it is also necessary to emphasise how in this milieu we run the risk of «implicitly binding together models that are not always compatible, in way that can confuse the goal of understanding our construct» (Hautmann Gr., 2015 – translated by the translator of this article).

It is a path for investigation, especially concerning the first point (the analyst’s identity), which we could grasp as inherent to an aspectin interiore homine, drawing on the singularity of the individual, on his original characteristics which make him a unique subject.

On the other hand, psychoanalytic identity is also connected to the analyst’s relationship with the other, whether another subject or an institution, and naturally to the educational process that leads the candidate towards his overall training and psychoanalytic qualification.

It is unrealistic to think of identity in interiore homineas something ontological and therefore irreducible, resistant to any influence from the spirit of the age. Widlöcher (1983) realised this, when he emphasised that the «experiential» conception of analysis had (for some time) been making progress compared to other more traditional conceptions.

Grinberg (1983) makes an effort to give this condition a more precise content, and claims that the psychoanalyst’s identity is a process of integration between three conditions which he theorises as follows: a spatial integration consisting in the relationship between different aspects of the cognitive equipment and the analytic experience, coherently with other experiences and in comparison with them. Atemporal integration, which by contrast corresponds to the assimilation of the relationships between different behaviours and experiences developed over time, with continuity in their uniformity and acknowledgement of essentially analytic experiences and insights.

Lastly, a social integration which includes assimilation into a given group or institutional community based on selective identifications. All this should have as its aim the differentiation and individuation of the analyst as himself.

The features defined here would find further containment and realisation in the «psychoanalytic function of the personality», a typical characteristic of the psychoanalyst. The concept obviously recalls what Giovanni Hautmann previously claimed about the «analytic function of the mind», which testifies to a simultaneous convergence of conceptions that underline the substantial rooting of identity in the internal world. In this way, we could also take a systematic approach to some specific features of the psychoanalyst:


  • a particular type of curiosity about given aspects of human beings, the mind,and psychic reality, including that of the analyst himself;
    a capacity for introspection and self-analysis
  • creative ability;
  • an ability to think in adverse circumstances, in the midst of the storm, so to speak;
  • a capacity for discretion and ethical behaviour towards patients, avoiding acting out and traps created by Transference and Countertransference;
  • tolerance of a certain kind of frustration, such as isolation, lack of immediate results, occasional inability to understand;
  • an ability to wait and to maintain free-floating attention;
  • negative capability (in the Bionian sense).


To these characteristics, Kernberg (1987, 1996) adds an inner faith in the possibility of using introspection as a tool for comprehension and change, and also a sort of parental stance, holding or containing the chaotic-conflicting characteristics of the intrapsychic.

Meotti (1980) had earlier stressed that the analyst’s identity is the end point of multiple processes of projective and introjective identifications completed in the distant past, of which recent identifications and present creativity are the echo. A central point of this reflection is the fact that the «internal object» of identity is anchored to a sufficient introjection of the fundamental parental figure of psychoanalysis: that is, Freud’s scientific work understood as a symbol of the primary object. This would be responsible for the analyst’s mobility and creativity.

Wille (2006) enters at this point and centres his reflection on the fact that the nucleus of analytic identity resides in the psychic representation of analysis itself in the analyst’s internal world. Psychoanalysis becomes one of the analyst’s internal objects, the qualities of which form the nucleus of his analytic identity, with all the conscious and unconscious cognitive and emotional features of the subject’s internal position in relation to psychoanalysis itself. It follows from this that the connection to psychoanalysis cannot be other than an object-relation. In this object various internal objects, both past and brand-new, are rediscovered.

According to this view, the internal psychoanalytic object is constituted thanks to the coalescence of three elements: a questioning stance towards introspective and interactive knowledge as a source of internal change; faith in the existence of an unconscious, unstructured communication process; and lastly, faith in the analytic setting as an elective condition for a psychic transformation. In order to be stable, this tripartite nucleus of analytic identity needs to be continually subjectively experienced as true and accompanied by a work of reflection undertaken individually or with others.

In this context, a possible confrontation is glimpsed during training between the analytic capacity, strictly attributable to the sphere of the individuality, and analytic competence which instead draws on the personal/public dimension. At present there is an ever more obvious bias in favour of the latter, which is turning out to be preferred (Garella, 2014). Here, the analyst’s identity seems to encounter a tormenting ordeal:the demand for a constant dynamisation of theory and practice creates a controversial space in which it is possible to lose contact with a psychoanalytic essence that is certainly hard to define, but which we nevertheless feel to be present. Moreover, the vehement defence of change at all costs, necessary and unchallengeable, sometimes seems to embody an obligation to confrontation, one that looks more likely to lead to the denaturing of psychoanalysis rather than to its enrichment, without a real synthesis, now that even institutions sometimes tend to overemphasise change.

Furthermore, relationships in the institutions sometimes tend to concern themselves more with primordial modes of relating (the dualism of good/bad, psychoanalysis/not psychoanalysis, for example), almost tribally, as is still the case between «young» and «old»; or even towards a sibling-style egalitarianism (the captivating but mendacious egalitarianism of eternal peers) that then risks making matters worse,more or less covertly exacerbating intergenerational rivalry.

Diluting analysis, but also caging it in excessive dogmatism (Grinberg, 1983), are two of the harmful factors that undermine the evolution of psychoanalysis and the stability of psychoanalytic institutions, and threaten the cohesion and identity of the individual and the group. The psychoanalytic community must therefore ask itself not only about the nature of the attacks on it from outside, but above all of those coming from within psychoanalytic circles, even when they are masked by tendencies towards a broadening of perspective or «liberation» from the bonds of «outmoded» theory, with the well-known and now worldwide attitude that whatever seems new, or seems to be going in an opposite direction to the «old», is by definition right, especially if it has an «anti-establishment» flavour.




I have previously noted at length (Marzi, 2013, pp. 29ff) the way that the digital world is of concern to psychoanalysis, which still adopts a variety of approaches to it.

We have, nevertheless, become progressively more aware of how the arrival of the digital age, by influencing the way in which one is a subject, may consequently influence the practice of psychoanalysis and the analytic relationship and setting, and thus induce a possible dynamism in the analyst’s own identity. This can be brought about by the increase in his level of relational suffering faced with unfamiliar phenomena in the session, but also by reorienting and probably enriching his capacity to approach «new» patients, thereby avoiding the scotomization of the cognitive power of psychoanalysis. Fundamentally, psychoanalysis has every right (and I would say duty) to challenge those forms of sociality and of mentalisation which put themselves forward as new (Egidi Morpurgo, 2013, 33ff). «The feeling of being frightened exists – in the human condition – but knowing how to tie oneself to the helm of a ship tackling the storm of towering new-unknown waves also exists» (Ferro, 2013, XVIII).

Does coming into contact, in the session, with the atmosphere created by the information-driven climate, with its rituals embodied in the use of devices, in their irruption – even physically – into the session, in their trans-contextual presence (Merlini, 2012), affect the possibility of staying within the bounds of one’s own previous analytic identity? Or does it violate that possibility? Aspects of the Self, and intrapsychic, interpsychic, and intersubjective relations, are influenced and subjected to possible changes.

So here is a first point of reference for the analyst’s identity in relation to the digital dimension: not only must we ask if existing psychoanalytic theories are adequate to comprehend the human condition and to constitute subjectivity during periods of rapid technological change; but also if psychoanalysis will consider it necessary to find a modulation and/or modification in theory and practice, so as to grasp the new forms of subjectivity that are currently making headway in the world, which is the same world that created cyberspace. We can also ask what the internet has produced and will be capable of producing within psychoanalysis, and at the same time what psychoanalysis will be able to make of the internet.

Psychoanalysis needs to work at reflecting on certain crucial, decisive and specific points, such as the nature of virtual reality, the world of information technology, the new media, and the potential dangers of psychopathology intrinsic to immersion in cyberspace.

In my opinion, virtual space succeeds in being mental space (and vice versa, we might conjecture), when it is correlated with shared experiential zones (of exchange, of superimposition) if the subject succeeds in living this space as a place where «drafts of analytic thought» (Hautmann G., 1999, 76) are possible, using cyberspace («dreaming it») as a constant and flourishing source of thoughts (Marzi, 2016).

To succeed in this, it is necessary to undertake analytic work which evolves as much as possible towards a three-dimensional relationship: tri-dimensionality – that is, a dimension which entails the presence of space – makes possible analytic operations such as projection and projective identification with regard to space and to the (virtual) objects which exist in it.

In these cases, the subject can connect dispersed or, at least, unorganised elements – proto-informatic elements,we might call them – giving to them a form of life, experiences, original elaborations (even artistic ones), and adventures of the mind that are not imbued with omnipotence or destructive narcissism (Marzi, 2016).

Connected elements which connect rather than fragment. In the analytic session, this material constitutes a pabulum out of which unknown emotions, given and re-given meaning, can come to life within a movement towards the attribution of sense (Marzi, 2016).

So, it seems fundamental that we succeed in exchanging emotional-affective communications with the cyber-world that feed back into a process of symbolization capable of becoming a «relational flow».




It is yet to be understood whether specific reflection on the identity of the psychoanalyst confronted by this world will generate genuinely substantial innovations.

Psychoanalysis is not the embodiment of an ontologically immutable entity, a perpetual invariant with the couch following in its wake, but is in reality subject to the recognition of rapid, fleeting transformations on the part of patients who are bearers of tumultuous or confused experiences of reality marked by modifications in the perception of space and time, and especially when it comes to cyberspace by the prevalence of narcissistic and autistic behaviours. This increases civilisation’s discontent, but also that of the analyst himself and of the analytic relationship.

But is a new identity really being required of the analyst, or do we in some way risk mistaking a changing relational colouring for an absolute innovation?

Maybe new pathologies, new settings, new patients, and so on, are not all that new.

And at the moment it is not clear that this entails a need for theoretical and technical modifications within psychoanalysis.

Coming into contact with features that we know to be already present in psychopathology, but which are transformed and moulded according to present socio-historical conditions, requires an effort of transformation on the part of the analyst, not in the sense of a «new techno-analytic man», but in his ability to utilise what is emerging from Information Technology as one element assimilable to the others already present in his analytic work.(3)

Besides, a variegated multi-contextuality is something that constantly cuts across the analytic session and takes the analytic couple into many different places, which within the distinctive dimension of the encounter and of the analytic «device» can find a new orientation, a new meaning.

This is possible thanks to the specific use of all this material as a psychic and allusive derivative for which we construct the possibility of symbolisation and comprehension. And yet the digital world, in all the variegated forms in which it presents itself, can produce disorientation in the analyst: from stories told by the patient in chatrooms, to blogs, gaming and surfing experiences transferred to the session, right down to the simple «interventions» of the mobile phone in the middle of a dialogue between the analytic couple.

We do not really know what impact this complex, lava-like condition may have on the analytic process, or whether and how it may influence the analytic field.


Certainly one of the central points in the unfolding of the analytic process lies in avoiding the seduction and the traps produced by a lack of or insufficiency in the elaboration of the proto-informatic elements coursing through the session, leaving patient and analyst captured or colonised by them, and feeling that there is no way out.

The effort to be made is first of all in the direction of an attunement with the everyday digital dimension in a broad sense since it is in fact obvious that many of the difficulties in this approach and form of contact reside in a preconceived mistrust that denies that all this is here already, for good or ill, and that it would be a big mistake not to take up the challenge it presents.




I have tried to show how it is possible to work in this way by means of a clinical reflection about a patient, Gianni (Marzi, 2013, 119), with whom I had an important analytic experience which somehow reversed the usual direction of the clinical cases that are reported in the literature: all the clinical cases on the subject bear witness to this trend in particular, where elements of the psyche are projected and cannot be

reclaimed. Among other things, Gianni allows me to suggest the opposite possibility and bring it to the fore: that of the return from cyberspace of what can be thought of as an object-world which had previously been evacuated into it.

Gianni, thirty years old, after a psychotic breakdown during which he has also attempted suicide, begins an analysis where he shows a psychic inner world characterized by severe depression within a narcissistic personality (a «thin skin», after Herbert Rosenfeld’s definition, 1987), and he also feels seriously stressed and attacked for complicated internal reasons. After several months, a phase of greater elaboration

begins. He also begins to say that «he is thinking about indefinite things», and I feel that this might hint at the drafting of an idea.

Gradually, persecutory and threatening dreams appear, and after some time he recounts this dream:


Alone at home I’m watching a film on my PC. The characters were behaving like those in the museum dream, in the dangerous game… The film was also interacting with me. The characters were coming into the room, they were doing things and I was frightened. I had to watch this film again so that these people would not do certain things [felt by him to be negative]. Watching it again, I manage to catch some details that allow me to finish watching it without problems, that is, preventing the characters from coming into the room…

From that moment on, the form/dream of the computer with characters that come out of it is repeated many times, in various versions of the story. So, the characters from the screen have to be welcomed into the room, and these, from one time to the next, bring hate, competitiveness, jealousy, rivalry, and dysmorphic–phobic anxieties. It is impossible to give more details due to lack of space. It will be sufficient to underline that those objects/characters have attempted to return to the processing dream space by passing through the video by way of dreams and the conjoined «ferrying» force of myself and the patient. These characters succeed in returning inside this dimension, allowing the conditions for the development over time of an aggregation in the form of meaning. The space where the objects were originally located, where they «resided», split and evacuated, before their beneficial overflowing to the exterior, appears, in contrast, like a place that is still virtual, but alien, the place where those characters previously used to remain imprisoned, dumb and immobile, virtual and only hopefully symbolic. Gianni now allows himself, when on the edge of annihilating events, the possibility of setting out with trust and hope, into a psychic land that manages to promise a mental existence in several dimensions, including that of internal time. In the experience with Gianni, all these objects flow out of the computer because the patient lets them emerge, just as from the triage of his split psychic elements. A place of dual potential: of annihilating ruin but also of vital manifestation.

With this brief vignette I aim above all to underline how it may be fundamental for the analyst, and for keeping his identity solid and dynamic when in contact with the digital dimension, to be able to keep open the three-dimensional space with the patient, a virtual and psychic space where it is possible to carry out analytic operations that are at the same time a confirmation of his own identity. This process does not occur without anxiety, turbulence, and fear.

This is, above all, the case when the qualitative and quantitative condition of the cyberworld which bursts into the consulting room exceeds the capacity of the analyst and/or the analytic couple to metabolize it, as is sometimes the case with a marked internet addiction. And yet here too, beyond the variation from case to case, it is possible to glimpse the possibility of analytic work: this is what David Rosenfeld tells us in the long clinical case history of Lorenzo (Rosenfeld, 2016).(4) Besides, the democratic attention to pluralism (with a consequent enlargement of one’s own identity) cannot be allowed to turn into anarchic eclecticism, and ultimately the notorious (and definitely postmodern) dimension in which «anything goes» which I too have addressed many times, identifying its dangers and its problematic character.

Even in the presence of conditions that are in themselves new, or at least different, flowing into the consulting room, what turns out to be decisive and to reaffirm constantly the analytic identity is the rediscovery, igniting and re-experiencing of what can variously be called the analytic function of the mind, the central activation of the psychoanalytic object, or even, according to a more classical theoretical vision, the validity of the analyst’s introjection of his function and of the Freudian scientific work active in his mind.

I realise that all this leaves many aspects of this subject unresolved, partly because there are still many «holes» in our knowledge of this area, prompting us to further thought, research, and change.




This uncertainty tends to increase when the analyst’s identity finds itself challenged by the vast, fluctuating field of remote analysis, known more commonly as teleanalysis. We know that, thanks to the use of sophisticated current technologies which allow almost instantaneous video and audio connections, many psychoanalysts now agree to treat patients over the internet, aiming to grant this mode of treatment a future as a likely co-protagonist within the setting.(5)

We are called upon to develop a better and greater understanding of this additional new frontier, to grasp the possibilities of its use and to make a critical evaluation of an evident tendency for certain practices to proliferate so far that they risk becoming no man’s lands.

In this experimental phase of study, several areas are emerging which need further understanding, and they concern not only technique in itself but also the theoretical and technical reverberations on the identity of the analyst getting to grips with this territory.

I wonder if this kind of clinical relationship, whether telephonic or conducted via video-conferencing, is adequate for every type of patient, or whether it is specific to certain cases, and if it is functionally equivalent to analysis in person by prioritising dreams, free associations, resistance, and the experience of the oscillation between transference and countertransference.

It seems that this mode is not possible if the patient does not possess the ability to preserve the therapeutic alliance and to share responsibility for the management of the setting, or if the analyst fosters doubts about this method, if he feels «disconnected» by the lack of a physically present analytic couple: that is, if this is going to undermine the maintenance of his identity in relation to the patient. It is therefore fundamental that we use remote analysis only when there are no alternatives, when there have previously been periods of physically present analysis, and if the analytic couple is convinced and confident that the analytic process can continue even at long range.

My personal experience underlines the fact that this mode of working is quite adequate on the whole, and that an analytic relationship can be obtained that is to a large extent congruent with the classical model, provided that certain requirements are respected, such as the presence of a previous analytic history with the subject, precise agreements on the setting, the patient’s consent, consideration of the possible technical difficulties, no over-dramatizing, and plenty of good sense.

What seems fundamental is the willingness of the analyst (and obviously the patient) to accept every manifestation of the «remote» setting within the analytic elaboration of the couple at work, which includes troublesome interactions with the technological problems that can occur and which are as fundamental as they are neglected by investigations in this field.

Teleanalysis (which may include the telephone) brings out, intact, all the complex and intricate characteristics intrinsic to the analytic relationship, but here they are increased by the presence of the problems provoked by the communication medium.

This unavoidable variable of the setting therefore constrains us to think about the meaning of a specific communication by the patient in a certain moment of the analysis, but also the fact of the possible impact on that communication and on the analyst’s listening from what is contributed by the active presence of the telecommunications medium, by its inescapable technological presence, its disturbances, crashes, and so on. This is a «third» which is neither a third ear nor an analytic third: it is a «datum» in the etymological and literal sense of the term, an element which exists separately from the couple at work but which nevertheless keeps coming right into the work of that couple. It is simultaneously an external and internal element, and because of all this, it can (must) necessarily be elaborated and managed as an element of the analysis itself, becoming in fact second nature to it, and because of its fragility can, for example, produce real and random disruptions of the setting. What comes into the picture here are not only the features that classically belong to the analyst-patient relationship, but also all those of what we might call the «telecommunicative field» which, viewed jointly from the complex but stimulating perspectives of clinical practice and theoretical investigation, form a sort of analytic-digital field. All of this further challenges the identity of the analyst.

Needless to say, here too it is fundamental to create a genuine relational threedimensionality in which the field can contain and transform these processes. Access to this dimension also depends –  and this definitely concerns the analyst’s identity – on a particular inner capacity of the analyst himself, who must always take into account the fact that the quintessence of the unstoppable dematerialisation which is one of the founding characteristics of cyberspace, sometimes shows the danger, when it collapses, of making the opposite phenomenon excessively present, a hyper-materiality which risks not being metabolized by the couple. It follows from this that even thinkability and long-range work can be developed if the need for creative exchange is satisfied, whereas their collapse may be due to the breakdown of such relating. These are characteristics which create contiguity with, rather than divergence from, the dimension of the analytic relationship in person.

In one of the first sessions via Skype, due to her moving far away, Cecilia – who has been in analysis in person for a few years – brings this dream:

Treatment of a woman. Many attempts, experimental things, some kind of epidural catheterization. I discuss it with somebody, I do not know who. An attempt outside the box. Something that has never been done for someone in great suffering. Then, as if we are in a kitchen, with many people, a party, and the woman is lying in the room next door, she feels unwell and we decide to carry out this experimental treatment…

The analyst tries to tell her that she is still talking about the Internet… Some «heroic» attempts are carried out, which have never been made together… Who knows what will happen? Experimental stuff… Perhaps the party appears because there is still nourishment in the analytic setting, but there is also an attempt to «commit to» having fun, which often happens to her [a defensive and elusive characteristic of the patient].

Then there is the sick woman: she is the needy patient and lies in a «separate» room (just as she actually is now, far from the known place of analysis), and she needs to be «rescued» through these «experimental procedures». After all, the catheter goes to the Central Nervous System, and the tube is like the microphone cable that somehow connects us with the voice without a presence.

Later on in the analysis she dreams about a character who is «swimming over to help her at the Reception Centre, where there are many people in need»….

It is certainly true that I am swimming with her in cyberspace and have become just as much a net-surfer as she is, swimming in the virtual sea but not giving up on her, coming to her aid because I am aware of her need and am accepted by her.

So one of the central points of the analyst’s identity resides in the possibility of better understanding the nature of teleanalysis and the stance to be adopted in relation to it: an analyst who should come across as well-motivated, animated by a spirit of inquiry and experimentation, but attuned to the fact that the digital world necessarily enters the analytic field, asks to be accepted and elaborated, offers itself as important material to be listened to and metabolized within a signifying chain.(6)

When conducting a remote analysis we nevertheless notice that, in the majority of cases, the analytic method has its own internal energies and capacities able to absorb this new characteristic into its «digestive» force, thanks perhaps to the possibility of construing itself as a tool of cognition connoted by a certain distance adopted in relation to historical contingency, from which would arise an applicability to very diverse historical situations thanks to the «referent» represented by the centrality of the subject’s psychic reality (Ceserani, 1998). This represents a condition directed towards an emotional experience of high value which can be used by the analytic couple for genuine psychic growth. It is also what is proposed by, among others, Ogden (2009, 2010), discussing the three forms of thought (magical, dream and transformative) which are very suitable for the field of remote analysis.

The creation of this space, the energizing of emotions and emotional experience which become thought, and the transformation of the (dangerously) inanimate and asymbolic into animated and symbolic flow, are also constituent features of what may occur in the remote analytic relationship, and it is exactly how my patient described it to me, with surprising oneiric intuition, as she and I together grappled with this new




It is undeniable that the digital world invites in-depth studies of psychoanalysis itself and of the virtual

spaces of the mind. all this pertains to the patient who brings «computerized» baggage into the session, but also to the analyst, who is subjected to currents that intensely stimulate his preexisting frames of reference, reinforcing his identity. trying to better understand this latter condition requires first examining the definition of the analyst’s identity and then the nature of virtual reality, with its impact on the psychoanalytic field and on the analyst’s identity itself, seeking possible integration.

some clinical illustrations are used in an attempt to deepen the field of reflection on this topic – not only in general, but also in regard to the frontier of distance analysis.

KEYWORDS: Analyst’s identity, cyberspace, clinical psychoanalysis, computerization, distance analysis, identity, psychoanalysis, tele-analysis, virtual reality.


IDENTITÉ DE L’ANALYSTE ET MONDE NUMÉRIQUE: UNE NOUVELLE FRONTIÈRE DE LA PSYCHANALYSE.Il est indéniable que le monde numérique stimule des approfondissements sur la psychanalyse elle-même, et sur les espaces virtuels de l’esprit. Tout cela concerne le patient qui apporte un bagage «informatique» dans la séance, mais l’analyste aussi, pressé par des courants qui sollicitent fortement ses précédentes coordonnées de référence, en en stressant l’identité. Essayer de mieux comprendre cette dernière condition exige que nous examinons préalablement la définition de l’identité de l’analyste, et ensuite la nature de la réalité virtuelle, avec ses conséquences dans le champ psychanalytique et sur l’identité même de l’analyste, en cherchant une possible intégration.

Certaines illustrations cliniques visent à approfondir le champ de réflexion sur cette question, non seulement en général, mais aussi par rapport à la frontière de l’analyse à distance.

MOTS-CLÉS: Analyse à distance, cyberespace, clinique psychanalytique, identité, identité de l’analyste, informatique, psychanalyse, réalité virtuelle, télé-analyse.



Es innegable que el mundo digital estimula la profundización sobre el psicoanálisis mismo y sobre los espacios virtuales de la mente. Todo esto tiene que ver con el paciente que lleva un bagaje «informático» a la sesión, pero también con el analista, sujeto a corrientes que solicitan con fuerza sus precedentes puntos de referencia, poniendo a prueba la identidad. Tratar de comprender mejor esta última condición exige que entremos primero en la definición de identidad del analista, luego en la naturaleza de la realidad virutual con sus consecuencias en el campo psicoanalítico y en la identidad misma del analista, buscando una posible integración. Algunas ilustraciones clínicas se esfuerzan en profundizar el campo de reflexión sobre este tema, no solo en línea general, sino también respecto a la frontera del análisis remoto.

PALABRAS CLAVE: Anàlisis a distancia, ciberespacio, clinica psicoanalítica, identidad, identidad del analista, informàtica, psicoanàlisis, realidad virtual, teleanàlisis.


DIE IDENTITÄT DES ANALYTIKERS UND DIE DIGITALE WELT: EINE NEUE GRENZE DER PSYCHOANALYSE. Es ist unbestreitbar, dass die digitale Welt Vertiefungen über die Psychoanalyse selbst und über die virtuellen Räume der Psyche anregt. Das betrifft nicht nur den Patienten, der eine Fülle an «Computerwissen» in die Sitzung bringt, sondern auch den Analytiker, der unter Strömungen steht, die stark in seine früheren Referenzkoordinaten eindringen und seine Identität auf die Probe stellen. Der Versuch, den letztgenannten Zustand besser zu verstehen, erfordert, dass wir zuerst die Definition der Identität des Analytikers anschauen, dann die Art der virtuellen Realität, mit ihren Folgen auf dem Gebiet der Psychoanalyse und auf die Identität des Analytikers selbst, um eine mögliche Integration zu versuchen. Am Beispiel einiger klinischer Fälle wird sich bemüht, den Reflexionsbereich dieses Themas zu vertiefen, nicht nur im Allgemeinen, sondern auch in Bezug auf die Grenze  der Fernanalyse SCHLÜSSELWÖRTER:Cyberspace, Computerwesen, Fernanalyse, Identität, Identität des Analytikers, Psychoanalyse, psychoanalytische Klinik, Tele-Analyse, Virtuelle Realität.



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Original italian version:

Riv. Psicoanal.,2017, 2, 403-426


Andrea Marzi

Via Pian d’Ovile, 96

53100 Siena



(Translated by Adam Elgar,BA, MSc)




(1)For details of this lengthy process, I hope I may be permitted to cite a volume written and edited by me, Psicoanalisi, Identità e Internet. Esplorazioni nel cyberspace(Franco Angeli, Milan, 2013 – English translation Psychoanalysis, Identity and the Internet. Explorations into cyberspace. Karnac, London, 2016) in which I have explored in depth the theoretical and clinical interface between the psychoanalytic world and the digital dimension, and which  includes various chapters going into particular detail about the analytic meaning of virtual reality and cyberspace.


(2)All these points which are so important to psychoanalytic reflection have recently led me to propose the formation of a study group within the SPI (Italian Psychoanalytic Society) to address this question of the psychoanalyst’s identity. One outcome, among others, is one of the «Multiple Seminars» (Seminari Multipli) in Bologna (2015).Gabriela Gabriellini, Gregorio Hautmann and Massimo Vigna Taglianti also took part in this group.


(3)In any case, it has been known for some time (Suler, 1998) that «Computers can be a prime target for transference because they may be perceived as human-like», thereby becoming representative elements with which to set up relationships of various kinds, from the most primitive to the more highly organised such as the Oedipal.» On the macrosocial relational level, see instead Merlini, 2012, 10; Civitarese, 2012, 36; Muscelli and Stanghellini, 2014.In this field Lacan proposed the well-known concept of the «discourse of the capitalist».


(4)Without inviting us into a careless eclecticism about boundaries and the limits of psychoanalytic methodology. It is still necessary to question whether the analyst’s work is really like this, or whether instead we are in the presence of repeated attempts to flee from a still adequate analytic process.


(5)For a careful examination of this field, see the three volumes edited by Jill Savage Scharff, Psychoanalysis Online (Karnac). If I may refer to the first part of volume three, this contains a chapter by Marzi-Fiorentini, «Light and shadow in online analysis», which addresses the topic at length.


(6)An analyst, moreover, who should be aware of the risks represented by desires for omnipotence which would denature the analytic relationship, and which include the analyst’s own insidious worries about earning a living.